Columbus — Groups that oppose capital punishment and like-minded state lawmakers reiterated their calls April 30 for Ohio to cease executions, following the botched lethal injection of an Oklahoma inmate.
“It kind of sickens me that this is something that we’re dealing with in 2014,” said Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown). He added, “I am philosophically and morally opposed to capital punishment … People just believe that taking away someone’s life is justified, and quite frankly I just don’t believe in that.”
Clayton Lockett, sentenced to death for murder of a 19-year-old woman who was buried alive, reportedly died of a heart attack late April 29 after complications during his execution.
According to witnesses, as reported by the Associated Press, Lockett struggled against his restraints, clenched his teeth and strained to lift his head during the process; prison officials later said a vein issue affected the lethal injection.
Ohio was in a comparable spotlight earlier this year following the execution of Dennis McGuire using a previously untried two-drug combination.
McGuire reportedly gasped for breath during the prolonged January lethal injection, though prison officials later said he was “asleep and not conscious” and “did not experience pain, distress or air hunger” during the process.
JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in an e-mail statement April 30 that prison officials were not planning, at this time, any reviews of state’s lethal injection process, in light of what happened in Oklahoma.
“The department takes this responsibility very seriously, has operated under a protocol that’s been approved by federal court and is committed to continuing to implement state protocols in a humane, constitutional manner,” Smith said.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on Gov. John Kasich to suspend executions through 2015, given what happened in Oklahoma and a new task force report with recommendations to improve the administration of the death penalty in the state.
“The botched execution in Oklahoma is another sad reminder of how broken our death penalty system is,” spokesman Mike Brickner said in a released statement. “After four botched executions in less than a decade, Ohio is at great risk of more problems with lethal injections. At this critical time where reform of the death penalty is possible, neither the public nor elected officials need the specter of botched executions distracting from this important work … The recent problems with lethal injections and those pointed out by the Ohio Supreme Court task force suggest we have much work to do to before we should resume executions.”
State Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), who has offered legislation calling for a moratorium on executions in Ohio, added in a released statement, “These botched executions turn the attention away from the horrific crimes the convicts have committed and onto the failed executions. At what point do we admit that the death penalty is not an effective way to see justice served?”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.